Conscription, 3% GDP: Boris Pistorius has big ambitions for the Bundeswehr

Appointed in January 2023 by Olaf Sholz, on the ruins of the Christine Lambrecht episode, Boris Pistorius, the German Minister of Defense, quickly became a leading political figure, whether on the national, European and international scene.

Particularly voluntary, he seized the application of the Zeitenwende of the German Chancellor, this envelope of €100 billion promised to the Bundeswehr in the aftermath of the Russian offensive against Ukraine by Olaf Scholz, to give it back going.

While the chancellor's hesitations around defense issues tend to crystallize criticism in the Bundestag as well as on the international scene, Boris Pistorius, for his part, made a very offensive speech in this area, and was able, in particular, to put on rails the Franco-German FCAS and MGCS programs with his French counterpart, Sébastien Lecornu, the two men sharing a common motivation and dynamism.

Riding unparalleled popularity in German public opinion, the German politician has, it seems, taken a new step, opening the door to measures to make the Bundeswehr the first army in Europe, and perhaps, from him, the next pivot of a possible future Great Coalition.

Visiting Washington, Boris Pistorius reveals his ambitions for the Bundeswehr

On the occasion of his visit to the United States, the German minister once again made a particularly offensive speech, calling on all NATO members to aim for a defense effort of 3% of GDP, and Germany to return to a form of conscription, to allow the Bundeswehr to regain the role of conventional pivot which it had during the Cold War.

Boris Pistorius and Lloyd Austin - Washington May 2024
Visit by Boris Pistorius to the United States, to meet Lloyd Austin, the American Secretary of Defense.EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

For Boris Pistorius, it is a question of giving assurances to the entire American political class, including the Trumpist Republicans who believe, more than ever, in the chances of their champion in the next American presidential elections.

Thus, by calling on all NATO members to move towards a defense effort representing 3% of their GDP, including the United States, the German minister is simultaneously sending several messages.

To the Americans, first. Indeed, not only does this echo the words of Donald Trump who had mentioned his intention to force the Europeans to bring their defense effort to 3% to maintain American protection, but he even suggests the possibility, for Washington, to reduce its own defense effort, today at 3,4%, by relying, precisely, on the increase in European investments.

To the Europeans, then, while several leaders of the old continent, such as the British, Poles or Baltics, also support an increase in the floor of the defense effort within NATO, beyond the current 2% .

To the Germans, finally, by taking a position significantly divergent from that supported by Olaf Scholz, less and less appreciated by public opinion, while the possibility of having to go through a new Great Coalition, an alliance between the Christian Democrats of the CDU-CSU and the socialists of the SPD, is taking shape during the next legislative elections of 2025.

Growing interest from German Defense Minister in Scandinavian selected conscription

In addition to increasing the European, and therefore German, defense effort, Boris Pistorius also pleaded for a return to a form of conscription in Germany, during his visit to Washington.

Boris Pistorius in Sweden May 2024
Boris Pistorius to visit Sweden in May 2024 to assess the Schoisie conscription model

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  1. Once again Germany prefers to stick to the demands of the USA (Trump) rather than getting closer to France, which has a nuclear alternative, but whose possible European nuclear umbrella would force the other beneficiary countries to put their hands in their wallets, in a way this could allow France to increase its military budget

    • Is it just a question of means? I think it's more a question of the nature of the relationship. Our neighbors were partly muzzled following the Second World War. They respect their then winner. They have an extremely complex and not devoid of ulterior motives with France. They have been asserting themselves for several years now. Let's give it time. If the Scaf and the MGCS go through with it, mutual perception will evolve in proportions that are currently difficult to assess. Consent to a de facto alliance is only possible when both parties are able to commit. This is not quite the case yet.


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